The Alberta government has introduced proposed changes to the province’s Police Act that would expand the powers of First Nations police forces.
The changes are part of a number of proposed amendments under the Justices Statutes Amendment Act, Justice Minister Kaycee Madu said Wednesday.
First Nations police forces have been in place in Alberta for up to two decades, Mr. Madu said, but they haven’t received the credit they deserve for the work they’ve done in Indigenous communities.
“They can be much more sensitive to local issues and cultures,” Mr. Madu said.
Although First Nations police are recognized through an exemption in the current act, the amendment would give them the same status as city forces in Edmonton, Calgary, Medicine Hat and Lethbridge.
“One of the ways by which this is significant for First Nations policing is by acknowledging that they are a bona fide police service within the framework of policing in our province,” Mr. Madu said.
“There is no question that this amendment would increase the stature of First Nations police services and commissions within the framework of policing in our province. It would put them on the same level with municipal police services.”
Mr. Madu said First Nations police officers would be able to issue tickets for infractions on their reserves.
“There has been some difficulty with First Nation police services being able to enforce their bylaws. With this amendment, they would be able to issue a ticket and go to the courts to enforce them,” he said.
“It is one problem we have heard time and time again from our First Nations people.”
The proposed legislation would also give First Nations police chiefs a spot at the discussion table about changes to policing in the province.
There are currently three First Nations forces in Alberta: the Blood Tribe Police Service in southern Alberta, the Lakeshore Regional Police Service northwest of Edmonton and the Tsuut’ina Nation Police Service just outside Calgary.
“The Tsuut’ina Nation Police Service has operated since 2004 and meets all provincial policing standards and duties. I commend the minister and his government colleagues for fully recognizing the Tsuut’ina and all First Nation police agencies in the amended Police Act,” Chief Roy Whitney Onespot said in a statement.
Other changes would allow the courts to send juror summonses electronically, including by e-mail, and eliminate a summons form.
They would also expand the list of offences subject to civil forfeiture under the Victims Restitution and Compensation Payments Act.
“This change will further deter crime as well as provide a source of new money, which will support police training and fund community crime prevention organizations and victims of crime initiatives,” said Mr. Madu.